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Liam Butler (20 Posts)

Liam Butler

Liam Butler is VP of Sales for SumTotal EMEA and has over 15 years’ experience in the Learning and Talent Management sector. His experience encompasses working with SMEs through to leading FTSE 100 organizations. His specialist domain expertise includes Extended Enterprise, Aviation, Manufacturing and other highly regulated businesses including 21 CFR Part 11 and EU GMP.

January 22, 2018

The Gig Economy Is Growing and HR Need To Pay Attention


The gig economy is “a labour market characterised by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work, as opposed to permanent jobs”. In other words, it is very removed from any traditional notions of employment and subsequently the historical HR functions. And yet it would be negligent and foolhardy were HR to ignore this growing trend; regardless of how you feel about these short-term contracts or freelancers, the sheer size and growth of the gig economy means it demands our attention.

Currently, it is estimated that here in the UK at least five million people are employed in this way, with The Office of National Statistics (ONS) predicting by 2020 it will be worth £9bn.

Before exploring what this means for HR, I think it is worth noting that this growth, like the ripples of the pond, has multiple and far-reaching consequences. HMRC has already expressed concern about how this could impact public funds, and therefore government spending, given the fact that self-employment typically yields a lower return on both taxes and national insurance contributions, with the Office for Budget Responsibility estimating that if the gig economy continues at the current rate,  it will have cost the Treasury £3.5bn by 2020-21

And are such workers truly self- employed? A London employment tribunal recently ruled that Uber drivers should be classed as workers rather than independent contractors and last year some couriers for Deliveroo expressed plans to gain union recognition and worker rights.

While some gig workers choose the format because it offers flexibility and the chance to make some extra cash, it does leave employees vulnerable and at risk. Self-employment means no sick pay, no maternity pay, or other benefits and it can, and has, led to employers seeing it as simply a cheap way to employ people. Such is the ambiguity, that there have been calls made on the government to get involved and clarify the law, while a recent Institute of Directors (IoD) survey highlighted the fact that one-third of business leaders were unsure about the statutory definitions and the majority said they’d welcome clearer terminology.

However, in PwC’s report “The future of work”, we see that while many HR professionals expect to see at least 20% of their workforce to be contractors and temporary workers, less than a third are basing their strategies on this eventuality.

It is also worth noting that while we often think of ‘gig’ job as delivery-type positions, the Resolution Foundation’s findings suggest that the gig jobs that have seen the highest growth rate over the past 10 years are in typically well-paid sectors. Banking saw a 60% increase, public administration 90% and advertising 100%.

Companies are also using the gig economy to solve skills gaps, particularly in IT, where a specific skillset may be required for a limited time and turning to the gig economy to address this, the perfect solution.

HR should be responding to this and technology sure can play a huge role in how HR can and should adapt. Part of this is having a technology platform that supports a flexible hiring process, can produce data that identifies skills gaps, while also continuing to provide traditional HR services. Other recommendations include making contractors part of your TA strategy, treating temps like full-time employees, creating an alumni network, one you can dip in and out of as needed.

It will also be imperative that you have a fast and efficient onboarding process, in part so that you can get everyone working as quickly and as smoothly as possible. SumTotal’s Onboarding solution connects multiple processes in one intuitive place, from the welcome letter, forms and first day schedule to recommended learning and collaboration with peers and mentors. From this then it is easy to monitor and manage all employees, irrespective of their employment status.

And as the ‘gig’ economy continues to flourish, it will be this flexibility around employment that will only grow in importance and relevance.


January 5, 2018

6 Ways HR can Boost Workplace Productivity


UK productivity rates are dropping. And the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), don’t forecast a reversal of this trend any time soon.

When I read this my first thought was to look to the usual suspects – the economy or political climate, but surprisingly neither figure in analysis by experts. What does feature, and is considered the main reason for the slump, is something rather more mundane.

The findings from a Unit4 survey puts it like this: UK employees are wasting almost a third of the working year on repetitive, administrative tasks, at a cost of £411.4 billion to the service industry alone. Yep. Despite the many technological advances, employees are still wasting or misusing valuable time completing tasks that do not contribute in any way to an organisation’s production levels.

HR has to play a vital role in improving employee productivity. Josh Bersin recently suggested that HR should be renamed ‘the productivity department’.

To offer some guidance in this, I’ve put together a list of the top six ways you can use HR to boost productivity.

#1 Connect employees

Use internal portals/social networks as a central location where employees can find answers to procedural questions, or HR matters, easily and efficiently.

#2 Manage Performance

Using performance management tools and functions to smooth and expedite the review process, thereby cutting down on time and offering greater opportunities for managers to streamline work processes.

#3 Be mobile

Studies show that almost all businesses enjoy an increase in productivity when employees can use mobile devices outside of the office. Almost half even believed the increase was substantial. Interestingly quite a large number also believed they could enjoy even further increase if such use of mobile devices was made more effective, perhaps by having employees use them to enhance communication or for certain apps.

#4 Automate

The majority of workforce management solutions give you the tools to automate the management of appraisals, training programs, succession plans and other processes. They also store all employee information in one, making it ever easier for managers and employees to access HR data in a more efficient way.

#5 Data

A Brandon Hall study found that 64% of organizations believed talent analytics is important or critical to their business but only 4% were prepared and ready to use talent analytics.

We are producing so much data, but are we using it? I think in many cases, not. This data is producing invaluable insights into a workforce, everything from performance, learning opportunities to where identifying trends.

#6 Office layout

While the open office plan may suggest a more democratic workplace, research by Oxford Economics throws a wrench into this popular trend. Of the employees surveyed, 53% said the ambient noise reduced both their satisfaction and productivity with 41% admitting to not having the proper tools to block out noise and focus on their work. But before we rush back to cubicles and such, it is worth noting that there is noise cancelling equipment available, so again we see a problem with a relatively straight forward solution.

When Brandon Hall asked global participants in their Employment Value Proposition survey about their HR technology, only 13% agreed that it was making their life easier.

We need to change this figure.

November 1, 2017

What were people talking about at Unleash?


HR Tech World in Amsterdam, rebranded now as Unleash, wrapped last week. It was hectic and tiring at times, but it was one of the more productive events I’ve been to in a while.

Over the course of the two days, lots of themes and trends were discussed, some new and some we’ve been hearing about for quite some time now.

But I think there were five key topics that warrant our attention.

#1 The rise of the gig economy

Dr. Daniel Thorniley’s keynote drew attention to what some see as the end of the traditional workforce. Currently, approximately 160 million westerners work in the gig economy while in the US alone around 55 million people work as freelancers. Think about what that means for, well, everyone. For HR, for the people themselves who must now operate under different criteria than in the past, and how this changes the landscape for training and development purposes.

#2 AI in the factory

Every conference today addresses this issue, and Unleash was no different. During a panel discussion around analytics and what HR folks are doing with the data that is being accumulated, David Wilson of The Fosway Group asked us all to consider how AI is impacting industries like manufacturing where the work environment is rather atypical.

#3 Will robots mean job losses?

Henrik Schärfe, like so many others, is raising our collective awareness that soon many jobs will no longer be filled by humans. But rather than bemoaning this fact, he recommends we see it as an opportunity to upskill; to concentrate our training efforts on those jobs/skills that require creativity and judgment – tasks robots are less suited to, and then happily leave the more mundane, time-consuming jobs to them.

#4 Will the 4th Industrial Revolution bring about a dramatic change in HR?

Josh Bersin spoke at length on this. And he is in perhaps the best position to given that Bersin by Deloitte is about to publish their HR Technology Disruption for 2018 report. While he didn’t give everything away, suffice to say if you are an HR professional, and you are not preparing for how things are changing, then you are preparing to fail.

#5 HCM tools can help foster diversity and inclusion

Gartner’s Research Director John Kostoulas addressed this issue in his presentation, and I hope, given all the recent bad press surrounding this issue, people took note and returned to their organisations with some solid and actionable insights. I like that he stressed that not only must diversity and inclusion be recognized as one, but importantly that for such efforts to succeed, they must be CEO-led. Real, significant and lasting change is only seen when the decision-making is occurring at the top.

For us it was a real pleasure to see Sarah Otley, ‎Vice President and Next Generation Learning Lab Director at Capgemini University, a SumTotal client, present a session on how once they established the Capgemini University, they were able to reach over 190,000 geographically dispersed learners with ease and convenience, which consequently enabled them to align and accelerate their organisation’s learning goals.

And of course, it was great to see Morne Swart, VP Global Product Strategy at SumTotal, demonstrate our updates to the Talent Expansion Suite®.  Some great questions were asked, and I feel people were impressed with our latest enhancements.

Now it’s time to review all that we learned and prepare for next year!

October 23, 2017

Unleashing your people at Europe’s HR Tech World event


HR Tech returns this year to Amsterdam, the site of the very first HR Tech, where for two days a Who’s Who of the industry will gather to discuss the global leadership crises, the 4th Industrial Revolution and the speed at which technology is disrupting everything and how all this ultimately means now is an exciting, or challenging, time to be an HR professional.

As usual, there will be lots to do and a host of speakers to hear. There is 150+ sessions and keynotes across 12 stages, and the popular Future of Work, HR Tech and iRecruit main stages are all returning features.

Over 5,000 attendees will descend upon the RAI Amsterdam. We’ll be there on stand 103 and one of our clients, Capgemini is presenting.

Look for:

Learning in the Digital Age – a New Paradigm
Sarah Otley, VP – Learning Approaches Director & Learning Centers of Expertise Director, Capgemini

Sarah will talk about how digital technology is transforming learning and will cover:

  •  What’s driving the digital transformation of learning
  • The characteristics of digital age learning
  • How to design and build content for the digital age

Our own Morne Swart, VP of Global Product Strategy and Transformation, is also presenting a session, Optimum Talent Development in a Changing Environment. Join Morne as he discusses the ways HR and learning leaders can tackle talent development, Millennials and the major shifts in the workplace that are impacting how work is performed, evaluated and rewarded. He’ll also explain how the SumTotal Talent Expansion Suite can drive the success of the talent development process.

Or stop by for a demonstration of the latest version of our Talent Expansion Suite or request a demo.

Remember that‘s stand 103!

Tot snel!  (Dutch for see you soon)

September 7, 2017

Benefits in kinda


Perks. From gym membership to the company cars, it is these ‘extras’ that are perhaps more beloved and more lauded than our monetary remuneration. Okay so perhaps not more, but they are a starting point, a deal – breaker or maker – and given the current employment landscape and a certain predilection of some Millennials to switch jobs every few years, they play an ever increasing and important role in the draw and retention of desired talent.

While having free meals or massages at your desk are a great boon in the workplace, if as the employer, the provider of these ‘extras’, you do not ensure that where it applies, the tax on the ‘benefit’ as been paid, you are giving your employee a most unwelcome ‘perk’ and one that could potentially land them with a hefty tax bill.

Remember these extras, while considered part of a salary, are classified as benefits in kind and some are taxable and others not. This ‘are they or aren’t they?’ is confusing, but the situation gets even more confusing by the fact that if an error does occur, it can be the employee who is faced with an underpayment demand, not the employer.

The process for taxation of taxable benefits is quite straightforward really. Every country has their own rules and procedures, so it is the responsibility of the relevant department in each to know and follow the regulations. Here in the UK, once it is established whether tax is due on the benefit in kind, the employer then completes the relevant tax form, a P11D, with the details of the benefit values for the appropriate tax year, as well as working out the Class 1A National Insurance contributions on said benefits. If this does not happen, the employee could receive a P800 form declaring an underpayment of tax.

Obviously everyone involved would prefer not to have this happen, but is there something an employer can do to ensure it never happens?


Include them with your payroll. How?

By including any benefits in kind as ‘tax not pay’ amounts, a payroll system will automatically produce P11Ds with all the calculations, including Class 1A National Insurance returns.  Additionally, and this adds even more benefits, if the solution includes self-service options, the employees can themselves view their current and/or historical P11D forms online. Now that’s a great perk!

What makes using a payroll system even more advantageous is that we are increasingly seeing the tax process change. Currently, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is encouraging benefits in kind to be taxed and reported via payroll which means as more organisations adopt this approach, it is likely the P11D form will gradually become obsolete. With the inclusion of taxable benefits as part of the normal payroll process, the tax is then calculated and deducted at source and the relevant information included on the statutory real time information (RTI) returns, therefore eliminating the need to produce the P11D form.

In short, with a payroll system, an organisation can streamline the payment process, adapt to tax regulations changes while providing employees with peace of mind with the knowledge that their ‘perks’ are not going to come with a price.

Check out SumTotal’s Payroll Solution.



August 17, 2017

5 Things You Need to Know About Managing Talent Today


Even if you have never seen Fight Club you will no doubt be familiar with these now infamous and iconic lines:

The first rule of fight club is you do not talk about Fight Club.

The second rule of Fight Club is YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT FIGHT CLUB.

Sometimes, I think HR can be a bit like that. Okay, so we do not pulverise each other, but it can feel like you are working in a vacuum, isolated both from the rest of your organization, but also, and importantly, from other people in HR. There is a myth that HR is something that happens behind closed doors and is only spoken about when a problem arises. Perhaps someone in finance has watched Fight Club one too many times, and then all of a sudden it’s all about HR.

But in the normal run of things, the day to day business of managing talent, this is what intrigues me.

What are your HR peers focusing on? How are other HR departments handling the ever evolving world of the modern worker whose expectations and experiences with HR is rapidly being reshaped by technology at a rate that is both thrilling and equal parts exhausting and infuriating?

Which is why when we do get some insights into the world of HR, we tend to inhale the information as though it was a last meal.

The Fosway Group and SumTotal’s Transforming Talent in the Modern Workforce research and Mercer’s Talent Trends 2017 Global Study have both recently completed large comprehensive studies on the modern workforce and what the findings reveal is that, not surprisingly, HR is feeling the heat of the modern worker and their collected expectations.

#1 Performance management and appraisals show the most progress

88% of company’s made changes to their performance management processes in 2016, with more to follow. However, only 44% reported that their performance management process was ready for the modern work force, which means most do not feel ready.

#2 Learning & Development is not ready for the impact of technology

Again, only 42% believe they are ready to provide ‘very advanced’ learning. What does this mean for L&D professionals, and how can HR address this poor showing?

#3 Career development is not developed

Only 1 in 10 said their approach is very advanced, with 69% saying they have work to do to be ‘ready.’ I am slightly surprised by just how low this number is, and do have to wonder why it is so abysmal? Are we not listening to our talent, who repeatedly express a desire to have the opportunity to advance in their careers and see it as a deciding factor when choosing an employer?

#4 Not promoting from within

Harnessing talent internally is still one of the least advanced elements of the talent agenda. Again, I am disappointed that companies are not seeing the incredible opportunity that is at their disposal, particularly since we all know there is a massive skills shortage and soon we will see companies fighting over talent.

#5 Hiring is misfiring

Less than 1 in 4 believe their talent pool approach is ‘ready.’ Without sounding like I am on repeat, this too is a figure that is less than satisfactory. What are we not doing that we should be doing?

Are you surprised by the results? Or are you nodding your head in agreement?

What would you say are the roadblocks facing HR? Well, if your answer includes any of the following – company culture, lack of organizational urgency around talent management and time constraints- you’d be right. When asked, these were the items that popped up the most.

But I’m curious now to see and hear what HR is doing to combat these concerns and improve the numbers. I’m also encouraged by customers I have the privilege of speaking with who are taking steps to right some of these wrongs.

Perhaps now that such areas of concern have been highlighted, we might see a greater redirection of focus or efforts. But we still need greater buy-in from CEOs and others who can impact company culture and shift the emphasis to greater awareness around managing talent today.

If HR is to win and succeed in managing a workforce that is itself evolving and facing new challenges, we must have more open discourse. Otherwise, much like Fight Club’s protagonist, HR will become embroiled in a war with itself.

June 21, 2017

What is the Future of HR and Talent Management?


HR must give value or give notice” – Dave Ulrich

Okay, so we’ve been hearing this statement for some time now. This, and the fact that HR is facing change like never before: politically, economically, and socially.

But what does it all mean to the person working in HR?

When they go into the office and open their email, what fills those subject lines? What issues or problems do they encounter on a daily basis?

This is what we wanted to know, so we asked. We surveyed HR teams from a broad range of industries, company sizes, and included those from both the public and private sectors. In total, we got 175 responses reflecting the thoughts and opinions of 150 organizations.

We took the responses and developed a white paper, The Future of HR and Talent Management.

Will the results surprise you? Perhaps.

Is it a worthwhile read? Definitely.

The survey provides some fascinating insights – including the reasons for the current penchant for switching jobs regularly, why the traditional bi-annual review is going the way of the dinosaurs, and what it means for everyone – not just HR – that only 10% of respondents rated their onboarding process as effective.

What is the benefit, the value of this information?

I think one of those interviewed, Fran Stott, HR Director with Story Homes provides the answer:

“I think the HR function needs to be able to show their value to the business, and strategically support the business in their medium to long-term ambitions.”

In other words, HR must give value. And to be of value, you must have knowledge, understanding, and a comprehensive and current picture of the situation, in this case the workplace environment, to then be in the best position to serve and provide, yes value.

To get this, I’d recommend you start by reading the white paper, here.

April 28, 2017

National Living Wage


This month the National Living Wage increased and will continue to do so until 2020 when it is projected to rise to at least £9 per hour, as detailed in the initial 2016 agreement.

This will result in a significant number of implications but the primary impact will be on hourly workers. Industries such as healthcare, residential care homes, and in particular manufacturing, will experience short- and long-term consequences from the annual incremental increase. In the short term, operating costs will rise adding to an organisations bottom line, while going forward the exponential cost of overtime and the potential of increased risks will serve to only further escalate operating costs.

Regardless of how you feel about it, the harsh reality is that organisations are struggling to manage the administrative burden of their large workforces in the light of persistent upheaval.

The substantial HR challenges the National Living Wage regulations present should not be underestimated. At SumTotal, through years of experience, we know that a Workforce Management (WFM) solution can and will provide your organisation with essential assistance.


WFM software provides your organisation with the data and insights which in turn empower you to better manage your workforce.

Here are just some of the ways WFM helps:

  • Tracking time – letting you know if employees are punctual in completing their schedule, thereby ensuring you are not paying employees for time not worked.
  • Prevents “Buddy Punching” – our time clocks work on a personal identification system putting an end to friends/colleagues punching in for an absent employee.
  • Scheduling – the reporting system will provide the data to ensure you always have the optimum number of employees allocated, thereby reducing overtime costs. Additionally, “shift trading” means employees can now be assigned shifts based on availability and skill thereby reducing opportunities for human bias or error.

In short, a WFM solution can reduce operating costs, reduce payroll costs and provide invaluable assistance to workforce planning.

To learn more about SumTotal’s WFM solution or get a free demo please click here.

January 10, 2017

How HR Pros Can Predict the Future (Really!)

I think if you drew up a wish list for HR folks, a crystal ball would claim the top spot. And yes, some might use it to get the winning lotto numbers – and then it would be goodbye HR, hello R&R – but many would use it as an opportunity to see what changes are coming down the road in order to prepare accordingly.

Future Looking

Jack Welch said, “Change before you have to.” As Jack and others will testify, few people enjoy having to scramble in response to changes in laws or company growth. It is far better to be prepared for change: to have a strategy in place that ensures everyone feels confident that no matter what is thrown at them, they are prepared and have a plan.

But back to the crystal ball. Already we know that issues like globalisation, digital disruption and the constant amending of regulations present huge challenges to HR. Uncertainty about what is going to happen next looms like a huge dark cloud over every HR concern. And trying to hustle together a L&D strategy before the cloud bursts? Well, it’s exhausting and frustrating. But if you knew the forecast and could foretell the tempestuous weather that lay ahead, then you could easily plan and pack accordingly.

But it would appear many working in HR never get any forecasts or warnings and are simply working in the dark. When we asked over 100 of our customers in the UK and Germany about their L&D planning strategies, the responses indicate how underused talent management data is in the vast majority of businesses. When asked about upskilling, 38% cited lack of insight in the key skills in the business making it hard to know what training is needed.

How can you upskill when you do not know what skills need upping? Less than a third of survey respondents felt confident in their ability to know what the company actually needed, what learning content aligned with the most essential skills to develop.

We can’t give you a crystal ball but we can give you something equally valuable in predicting the future: data. Data you can use to prepare for the inclement weather, because with insight you can foresee the storms ahead and design and implement the programmes you need to manage and see out the storm. Data that tracks employee skill needs and requirements. Data that will identify future leaders and data that highlights any disconnect between skills that will be needed and the skills your workers actually possess. Putting that data to use, we then offer solutions that best help your team develop those skills.

Currently this is data that is seriously underused in most companies. But given the current HR quandary, such data could play a pivotal role.

Vote for YOUR top talent challenges of 2017 in our poll!

December 20, 2016

How Automation is Forever Changing HR

In many ways, it is thanks to the automotive industry, and Ford in particular, that the process of automation caught on. And although there were earlier attempts – Eli Whitney in the 1700s with muskets I believe–I think many of us automatically picture the Ford assembly line when we think of automation. That image of the conveyor belt, the speed and efficiency of automation so glaringly obvious you begin to wonder why it took two hundred years to perfect.

Assembly Line

Due to his assembly line process, Ford succeeded in reducing the time required to assemble a car from over 12 hours to just over 90 minutes—and while automation may have originated on a car factory floor, its uses soon spread. Today, it’s an innate part of almost every industry imaginable. Its application for HR is phenomenal—automation has transformed certain processes with outstanding results.

At its very heart, automation shaves time off a process and in doing so saves labour and reduces the possibility of error while simultaneously replicating at such a speed that it produces increased levels of accuracy and precision. In fact, you might almost say automation was custom-built for the HR sector – if that is not a contradiction in terms!

Now, thanks to automation tasks such as completing and submitting timesheets, performing health and safety checks, onboarding, taxation, recruitment, administering benefits and evaluations have been forever changed. Organisations can guarantee that their employees receive accurate and timely information in a consistent, yet cost efficient, manner.

And speaking of costs, if the fact that automation saves time and increases accuracy didn’t convince you of its merit, this might- The APA (American Payroll Association) estimates a 4-7 percent saving on annual payroll by automating time and attendance alone – a figure that is itself impressive, but is further compounded by additional savings from improved record keeping feasible thanks to… you guessed it… automation.

But the benefits don’t stop there. Automation can help you become compliant by helping ensure that not only are the correctly qualified staff completing assigned tasks and keeping current with mandatory training, but that staffing numbers meet their quotas. Additionally, it can help you make sure everyone is getting the correct number of breaks and rest periods.

Automation can also increase productivity rates by providing the data and analysis necessary to allow optimal scheduling and distribution of employees, creating even further savings.

The impact of automation on HCM cannot be underestimated, which is why SumTotal designed and developed SumTotal Work – a workforce management (WFM) solution that takes full advantage of all automation offers. As the only fully inclusive solution in the industry, SumTotal Work gives your organisation every opportunity to realise the unparalleled ways automation can transform the way you operate.

The future trends of WFM remain to be seen; but one thing is for sure: just as the assembly line revolutionised the automotive industry, so too has automation transformed the way companies manage their talent.

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